Heritage Open Days 2016 runs from 8th to 11th September and sees buildings
all over the UK open to the public that are not normally accessible, and
once again WHPS will be opening the Grand Shaft on the Saturday and Sunday
of the event.
New this year will be running a limited number of guided tours of the NORTH
ENTRANCE ROAD TUNNEL. Spaces are very limited and will only be available
to book via Eventbrite, details will be published on our website and
Facebook on 1st August.
Page Open: Please click here.
A brief history of the North Entrance
The North Entrance is first referred to in plans dating to 1815; it is situated at the northeast end of the fortress where North Military Road reached the Heights. This position could be defended with flanking fire from the North Centre Bastion on the western side and by the Lines, which were well established by this time, to the east. The 1815 plan suggests that North Military Road probably crossed the Lines via a bridge. At this time there was one ditch at the site of the North Entrance.
The North Entrance was the main access point to the Heights for works traffic and building materials and as a result a main works area was constructed just inside. Once through the entrance, North Military Road branched into three. One led directly to the Drop Redoubt, one to the North Lines and the third continued through the Heights until it joined South Military Road.
Work across the Western Heights came to a halt in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon. However, in 1860 a Royal Commission called for the entire Western Heights to be completed and brought completely up to date. For the North Entrance a more complex defensive system was planned, including the construction of a tennaile (partly made from the spoil of the construction of the second ditch), giving rise to an inner entrance. This meant that another bridge had to be constructed, which had a drawbridge preventing assaulting forces from reaching the inner part of the North Entrance. Rather than running in a continuous line, these two bridges are offset from each other as a further defensive measure. Gun rooms were added to give covering fire along the inner ditch and a further gallery of gun rooms to give fire towards the North Lines. This work was started in early 1860 and completed four years later. A tunnel then led from the inner entrance towards North Centre Bastion Road. At the end of the tunnel were three water tanks and, opposite them, a guard room.
Once completed, the North Entrance was armed with two 18pdr carronades. This was later upgraded to two 24pdr carronades, but by 1892 of the carronades had been removed and ten years later there was no heavy artillery at the North Entrance at all. All defence would be from rifles and machine guns.
In 1877 the role of the Western Heights began to change as new ideas about mobilisation began to appear. This led to the Heights being a place of storage for mobile weapons such as field guns and the two bridges of the North Entrance had to be reinforced to ensure they could carry the weight of horses pulling this type of heavy artillery.
As the 20th century began the gun room of the North Entrance saw use as a telephone exchange. The entrance itself continues to provide access into and across the Western Heights, even after the Heights were decommissioned in the 1950s. In the 1960s a great deal of the Heights was transferred from military into civilian control, but the War Department stipulated that the North Entrance was not to be destroyed as it was considered too important. However, a cut was made through the Lines close to the North Entrance and Military Road was re-routed to go through this breach. At this point the road actually runs directly over the third water tank. Today all points of access to the North Entrance are sealed and the site is now the property of English Heritage. The drawbridge of the inner entrance has been subjected to arson attacks over the years, but parts of it can still be seen from outside. In addition, the entire road has disappeared from the bridges, leaving only the metal supporting struts. As with all other parts of the Heights, the North Entrance has been vandalised through the years, but it remains one of the most crucial parts of the Heights. It was a point of access for men and materials, a construction area and a crucial defensive area had an assault ever been mounted against the Western Heights.